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Generating and Acquiring Organizational Knowledge

A Case Study at a Large IT-Organization Managing Projects using both Agile and Traditional methods

Written by Tove Ekblom, Jenny Lindén

Paper category

Master Thesis


Business Administration>Management




Master Thesis: Knowledge Classification The topic of knowledge management has received increasing attention in the past few years (Spender, 2015). Several authors identified post-industrial society as “knowledge-based”, where knowledge is regarded as the most important asset for organizational success (Bell, 1973; Toffler, 1990; Nonaka, 1994; Cortada and Woods, 2013). Knowledge is a multifaceted and intangible concept, and philosophers and researchers have been trying to define it since ancient Greece (Nonaka, 1994). However, by reviewing the existing knowledge literature, Bhatt (2002) pointed out that researchers agree that knowledge is an organized combination of ideas, rules, procedures, and information. Consistent with this, Argote (2012) emphasized that this concept involves combining facts with physical skills, conventions, and methods. More specifically, some authors distinguish between knowledge and information (Dretske, 1981; Machlup and Mansfield, 1983; Nonaka, 1994; Carlson et al., 2011). In a company, there is a lot of data-like information of little value. Attention should be paid to the small part of information possessed by human thought, so it should be analyzed and reflected and transformed into knowledge (Alavi and Leidner, 2001). Carlson et al. (2011) emphasized the main difference between information and knowledge, stating that knowledge is acquired when individuals analyze information and put it in context. Therefore, information is general and data-like, and knowledge appears in people's minds when interpreting information (Karlsen, et al., 2011). Similarly, Nonaka (1994, pp.15) pointed out: "Information is a flow of information, and knowledge is created and organized by the flow of information, and its foundation is the commitment and belief of its holders." Davenport and Prusak (2000) further confirm this definition of knowledge. They believe that knowledge is formed by comparing and analyzing information, investigating its consequences, determining its connection with prior knowledge, and/or anchoring it in a dialogue. In addition, knowledge can be represented in multiple dimensions (Argote, 2012). The epistemological dimension describes the nature of knowledge by separating implicit and explicit. The ontological dimension is differentiated according to the level of knowledge (individual, group, or organization). In order to analyze the learning and knowledge within the organization, an understanding of these concepts is essential. Therefore, they are described in Section 4.1.1. And 4.1.2. Below. 4.1.1 Epistemological dimension: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge can distinguish between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge (Polanyi, 1962; Nonaka, 1994; Argote, 2012; Edwards, 2015). According to Edwards (2015), explicit knowledge is universal and formulated for a common goal. This type of knowledge can be viewed as "things" or "objects." It is easy to compile and can be assembled in written form. Similar to information or data, explicit knowledge can exist without human interpretation of the information. Therefore, there is no so-called "knower" for the existence of explicit knowledge (Edwards, 2015). On the contrary, tacit knowledge is individualized, and the individual possesses it through experience (Nonaka, 1994). As Polanyi (1966, pp. 4) initially said, "We can know more than we can say." Tacit knowledge is created and acquired through specific situational events, and created through determination and participation. Therefore, tacit knowledge is difficult to express and communicate (Nonaka, 1994; Hung, 2012). Since tacit knowledge is developed from practice and experience, it is not easy to transfer among knowers. However, knowledgeable persons can help others learn tacit knowledge by providing basic explicit knowledge as a theory (Powell and Ambrosini, 2012). The distinction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge is sometimes fuzzy. For example, being able to ride a bicycle is mainly tacit knowledge, which is generated by experience, ability and talent. However, it involves some explicit knowledge: sitting in the saddle, holding the handlebars, and then paddling. Knowledge is rarely only implicit or explicit. On the contrary, it is a tacit or clear combination with the core (Edwards, 2015). In addition, according to Alavi and Leidner (2001), these two types of knowledge are interdependent. For example, if there are common points of overlapping tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge can only be shared among individuals. This means that the sender and receiver need to have a common tacit knowledge base in order to successfully explain and be able to use the shared knowledge. 4.1.2 Ontology dimension: personal knowledge and organizational knowledge. Many authors have distinguished according to the owner of the knowledge (Nonaka, 1994; Tell and Söderlund, 2001; Bhatt, 2002). Tell and Söderlund (2001) describe personal knowledge as the knowledge possessed by individual members of an organization. It is the knowledge that exists in the individual's brain and skills, and is the attribute that an individual can apply to different tasks or problems (Lam, 2000). On the other hand, according to Tell and Söderlund (2001), organizational knowledge is based on the structure and activities of the organization. Organizational knowledge belongs to the organization and does not depend on its employees (Jones and Leonard, 2009) Read Less